The March of the Dead

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18

Those clouds ceased creeping over from the west for a few days early May.

In the classroom, Cantey stared at me as students headed out the door to recess. He grabbed my shoulders. ‘Don’t be a nob again, and I won’t have to deck you.’ He slapped my forehead once, twice.

I ducked, slapping him back. ‘You know I freakin’ hate that place, dick,’ I said.

He grinned, trying to slap my butt.

As the sun blared that evening, we played with the soccer ball. When we finished, they went for a swim. I remained up top of Evie’s, eating M&M’s.

On Saturday, I stood in the backyard with Mum, more new plants sitting on the grass. Mum gazed around the gardens, plants sprouting everywhere from them. ‘Where should I put these ones, Blinky? I think we’re running out of room.’

A bright aura surrounded us on Sunday when we picnicked at Standford Dam. Dad cooked over on the barbeque beside the park while Mum and I played a little soccer. A cloud hovered over the sun. For a moment Mum looked old and frail, but the sun soon emerged, her rich dark skin returning. A bunch of friends playing cricket were scattered out in the middle of the oval. The sky was rich and blue.

We remained playing around and eating, the sun arching further over the giant valley. The surface of the large dam wavered and flickered in the midday light.

‘You like the sausages?’ Dad said, having taken a bite from his own sandwich.

That night I laughed as my friends slapped the buttons on the arcade machine in Game Zone. The sounds of buzzers and bleeps and bloops came from all around, the scent of popcorn wafting over from the foyer of the movies next door.

The clattering of pins being hammered by a bowling ball across the room.

Kehlani slipped her arm through mine.

I smiled, gazing, and for a moment her eyes flashed green, while on the screen of an arcade game shone a forest, the green glow causing the illusion.

I felt that tickling in my chest.

Soon her normal eye-colour returned as the screen changed.

‘Kiss me, Blinky ... kiss me.’

*

Sunday morning, bright colours pierced my vision as Canty, Turner and I wondered along Morrison that morning.

A sign hung over the road, long poles on both sides keeping it in place. Claw-like stands held up the poles. In colourful lettering, the sign read BURARRA TOWN FAIR.

It shimmered in the early morning breeze. Sunlight glinted down on the balloons and colourful tents, folk strolling along the main road. At the other end of Morrison, past all those glinting stores and smiling townspeople, sat a large yellow roadblock stretching from one end of the road to the other.

Kids dressed as animals wandered, sucking on slushies or milkshakes. Parents pushed prams with large showbags attached to the handles. Older and younger alike wore the darker shaded clothes of autumn, but the breeze brushing through didn’t hold the winter bite just yet. As that breeze swept through, the trees, now losing their leaves, shook. There those autumn leaves danced to the road, falling on street furniture and over closed bins and even onto their hair of some townfolk on their way. Colourful balloons bobbed and jiggled, clows strolling the main street handing them out.

Here ambled a girl leading a baby Labrador, the dog so cute that all the little boys and girls rushed over to pat it. The puppy licked their fingers, the cute act drawing over girls wearing fairy wings from a nearby stand to pat it also.

To my right sat a large showbag store, Smarties, Mars Bars, and Avengers show bags glinting in the brightness in that cool mid-autumn air. Out front, kids waited in lines three deep, while a lady with wrinkly skin and a grin which didn’t serve to hide her missing teeth handed showbags to them.

A family sat at plastic tables and chairs in the middle of the road, a pretty young waiter in black strolling from the stall with two large coffees. Two old men ambled along with streaming coffees, the lady from Salads Fresh N Go paced from her shop to hand someone a protein shake.

Music from games stalls buzzed, while spruikers rambled into microphones, their voices distorting the speakers. Aeroplanes, attached to giant swinging poles, swirled through the air, while a tea-cup ride spun round its patrons.

The popcorn store sat churning over coloured popcorn, little girls and boys of all ages standing out front, bobbing up and down as they waited. A wide-eyed boy from the store carried a cup full of spilling popcorn.

A teen wearing virtual reality goggles sat on a tilting white dish, the dish leaning one way and then the other, the teen with a beaming smile. His younger sister, waiting in line behind him, turning around, smiling and then squealing as she scurred away.

A space scene flashing on the screen the boy flashed, the boy zooming through a rocky meteor shower. He soon went into hyperspace, before twisting and twirling his way down to a rocky, red-surfaced planet.

People laughed and chatted, kids yanking parents this way and that.

One lady yelling at her child for spilling her ice cream on the road, the child’s shoulders raised as she bawled.

The sky was blue and clear of clouds.

Cantey, Turner and I strolled, sucking on blue, red, and yellow slushies respectively. We soon sat on a street chair, chatting about last night’s footy game. To our north sat the stall selling bright colourful fairy wings, ten or so little girls jostling in line out front, excited to get their fairy wings affixed.

A tall clown, face white, lips blaring red, strolled along, colourful balloons bobbing above him. He bent, handing one to a waiting kid. The clown wore an enormous smile, his overalls shinning green, large yellow buttons on the front.

‘Look at this freakin’ paedophile,’ Cantey said, sucking on his red slushie, while before the tall man with that fuzzy clown hair five or six kids reached up.

The boys and I cracked up. I shook my head, muttering, ‘That’s you in a few years, Cantey,’ resulting in me receiving a slap in the back of my head.

We went and ordered hot chips some time later. Now that midday sun blared. There we strolled. Alexis and Zara from our year ambled by, the other boys checking them out. The girls wore tight jeans, and tops which clung to them as though tailor made. Glossy blonde hair glinted.

With that glaring sun, all those bright colours round me started giving me a headache.

Kids strolled, chewing on popcorn.

Then the scared voices.

A man wandered along ahead of us.

’All right ... all right ... time to die, mother fuckers ... time for a few a ya ta taste my led-flavoured popcorn, free of fucking charge.

And the screams.

Two older ladies turning to hustle out of the way as two teenagers bowled past them, knocking one over. Other town folk screaming, parents hauling kids over shoulders as they ran. A man whose face looked distraught, calling, I presumed, the cops on his mobile.

I stood, hardly able to move.

‘Holy shit,’ Turner said, jaw slack as he gazed.

People were now turning, fleeing.

A young kid stood lost on the road, bursting into tears.

The tall clown holding the balloons, arched behind him to stare at the commotion, while the kids before him stared at the approaching man, looking around the clown.

From our position we could hear the clown mutter, ’Holy shit ... this little cunt’s after me ... shit.’

The madman, his skin a little rough, a long grey beard running from his chin stomped further towards the clown as kids and parents now fled. Yelling sounded from all around.

‘Give me a balloon!’ called the mad-man, ’Give me a fucking red balloon, clown, now, or I’ll send ya back up to craaazy heaven where ya came from, boy .... That sound like a deal?’

The madman pointed the pistol at the clown. The clown threw one of the boys—who had been reaching up for a yellow balloon—out of his way.

My friends yanked on my shirt. But I felt that paralysis again.

The clown pounced, nearly bowling-over another seven-year-old boy.

‘You cunts get outta my way, would ya,’ he said, thumping past another tiny kid who had been scuttering out of the way. ‘Get outta me way, ya little shits,’ the clown nearly screamed.

Cantey yanked on my shirt, dragging me behind a cement chair. Lowering to my knees, I looked on, my heart thumping.

The clown dashed, people fled.

’Move ... move,’ the clown screamed, thumping into the side of an elderly lady, sending her and her walking stick sprawling to the hard cement, stomping over her as he continued. He leapt on top of a wheelchair with a cabin, slamming his big clown boot onto it before leaping off the other side.

The balloons bobbed and wobbled above the clown’s head, the crown, in his haste, perhaps forgetting he still held them.

A gun sounding.

People screaming.

Now nearly everyone ran.

The clown dashed along the road, curly red wig flapping back in the breeze, sweat running down his face, leaving a trail of pink skin in its wake. I went to stand, but Turner grasped my back. ‘Stay. Stay.’

The clown dashed, screaming, running at those fairy-wing girls gathered at the small pink stall.

Pow, pow!

Two bullets took-out a yellow and red balloon above him. The clown gasped, staring up over his shoulder, before releasing the remainder of the balloons to heaven.

‘Get the fuck outta my way, you pricks,’ he screamed at the tiny girls.

He sprinted, tiny girl after tiny girl in beautiful pink fairy wings screaming, scrambling away from the store.

The clown grunted as he ran.

Puush!

A bullet exploded through the clown’s chest, his body flying through the air at those fleeing girls.

He seemed to float through the air, blood having doused a set of fairy wings hanging from the store.

Thump!

The clown’s body crashed against the counter, sliding over it and slamming into the shelves behind, sending fairy wings and wands and sparkling tiaras bursting up into the air.

The madman laughed as he stomped along.

Now my friends and I stood, ducking away in the other direction.

Another clown up the far end sprinted away also, the madman now stomping after him.

‘Leave me ... leave me ... leave me,’ the clown begged, elbowing a kid in the jaw as he passed so he could get through. ’Move it,’ the clown growled, slamming another young boy in the face with his big fat clown glove.

Pow!

The gun exploded. The clown sailed through the air, landing on the table where two old ladies knelt behind. The clown’s body slid over the table, his head stopping an inch from the old lady as slices splattered to the cement. As the old lady went to stand, her hand got caught in the dead-clowns wig, and she dragged the entire body down off the table, lugging it behind her as she tried staggering away from the scene.

Now a third clown dashed, jumping in and out of people who ran by him.

‘I didn’t do anything! I didn’t do anything!’

Pop, pow, pish! the madman fired at some balloons hanging from stalls around the clown. The clown’s puffy pants parachuted open from the wind as he ran.

He yanked down on those pants as he ran, revealing a set of Iron Maiden underwear to onlookers staring at the scene from behind walls or inside shops.

‘Move it ... move it,’ called the half-naked clown, thumping into an eighty-or-so-year-old man, who went careening back into the Meg’s Orange Juice Stand behind him, bursting open one of the orange juice containers and dousing himself in the ‘freshest and most authentic orange juice in Burarra’.

The clown passed the showbag stand, snatched up a Barbie showbag and started throwing tiaras and make-up and stickers back at the pursuing mad-man.

Ban, bam, bam, went that gun, exploding into the side of one of those small aeroplane carriages hovering above the clown as he ran.

The grey-bearded man then stood in the centre of the town fair.

’Come play ’Shoot ‘em Up’. Who wants to join? Prizes for every contestant. Only one buck a game.’

He smiled, turned towards two young girls cowering behind a giant pink tea cup some metres away and lifted the gun to his own face.

‘Everybody gets a prize,’ said the grey-breaded man, and pow, his head lifted off his body.

Kids and parents throughout screamed, the man standing there for a moment, the bottom of his face remaining, a strange grin somehow still on it.

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